Myths

The Deer Lady Legend: Taxti Wau Or Deer Woman In Native American Culture

Deer Woman has a deeper history than any creepypasta or SCP story might have you believe. Also known as Deer Lady or Taxti Wau, this spooky but beautiful mythological creature looks like some mix of a woman and a deer. Her stories come from many Plains tribes.

She may appear as an old crone, a lovely young maiden, a deer, or some mix thereof. She is a shapeshifter, and like many shapeshifters has a trickster element to her myths. Often her form is of a human woman that does not have human feet, but cloven hooves.

Many of her myths are unknown and untold, kept within their native communities. What we do know of her, however, shows she is related to fertility, women, children, and revenge against men and the wicked. Many of the Taxti Wau myths make her sound similar to sirens and succubi.

In Indigenous cultures, she is one of the Little People, similar to the Fae. The Little People are known for being mischievous tricksters that hold otherworldly knowledge.

Deer Woman is one of the Little People: among the Cherokee they are called Ani Yunwitsandsdi; among the Choctaw Hutuk Awasa, literally “little men.” The function of the Little People is similar to the function of the fairies of Europe; sometimes to the Bogeyman of America. There are stories we were told when we were younger — that the Little People would come from the earth and swallow us up if we weren’t good.

Carolyn Dunn

In some versions of legend, the Deer Woman does not only punish those who behave badly. Like a succubus that feeds off the lives energy of their victims, with each passing moment, they grow weaker and weaker, until finally withering away into nothingness.

What Is Deer Woman In Myth And Folklore?

Often seen just off the trail or hiding behind foliage, the Deer Woman is a beautiful woman most known for seducing men to danger. Like a Siren, she lures foolish men who don’t notice her hooves or deer tail until it’s too late, and then she stomps them to death.

According to some versions of the myth, Deer Woman was originally a shape-shifting woman who became a deer after she had been raped or murdered. A symbol of freedom and agency, she represents hope for women facing abuse.

The Deer Woman spirit teaches us that marriage and family life within the community are important and these relationships cannot be entered into lightly. Her tales are morality narratives: she teaches us that the misuse of sexual power is a transgression that will end in madness and death.

Carolyn Dunn

Deer Woman is known for being playful and mischievous, as well as curious about mortal human activities. She loves to dance and sing. It is believed she enjoys playing tricks on people. She is also known to like to dance and will join group dances and only leaves when the drum beating stops.

Dancing all night, she lasts until the final dance known as the rabbit dance. This is a dance where the lady picks the man. She then takes the man back home and transforms back into a deer.

Originally associated with love and fertility, the Deer Lady stories emphasized choosing a mate wisely. They warned against being led astray by infatuation. These stories teach people to check for red flags in their future spouse: check for the cloven feet of the Deer Lady to make sure that maiden isn’t out to harm you. If you don’t catch the red flags and deer feet, she could lead women into prostitution and men to their deaths.

Originally, she would help Native women in American tribes to conceive healthy children.

In addition to being a symbol of feminine strength, Deer Woman is also a protector of women and children. She is a guardian spirit, and she watches over the safety of her family members. She is also a healer, and she helps women recover from physical and emotional trauma.

The Deer Woman is making a resurgence today in part due to the disproportionately high rates of Native women being sexually assaulted or dealing with domestic violence. She is becoming a symbol of survival and resilience to women besieged by violence.

She is a guardian spirit for women and children, and enacts revenge against anyone who harms those she protects.

From the Lakota tribe, the Deer Lady actually steals the souls of men so they will be lost their whole lives. She also abducts women, never to be seen again. In these myths, she is a black tailed deer.

How Can You Banish The Deer Lady?

If you encounter the Taxti Wau, she can be banished with tobacco and chanting. Another way to break the spell she has on you is to look at her feet. Once you recognize her as the Taxti Wau, she runs away.

As with most tricksters, however, the best way to avoid being ensnared by an angry Deer Lady is to be good. Don’t be promiscuous, don’t cheat, and don’t hurt women or children. Children aren’t exactly safe either, since she has been known to trample disobedient children as well.

When faced with a beautiful woman of unknown origin, be sure to never look in their eyes. Looking in their eyes is what allows her to bewitch you.

Where Does The Deer Lady Live?

The Deer Woman is most well known in and around Oklahoma, the Western United States and the Pacific Northwest. Deer woman stories have been documented by the Oceti Sakowin, Ojibwe, Ponca, Omaha, Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Choctaw, Otoe, Osage, Pawnee, and the Iroquois.

There may be more Native communities familiar with Deer Lady, but these stories have yet to be shared.

Deer Woman Symbolism

Deer Woman is an apparition of female sexuality, appearing as the wildest aspect of femininity. She is associated with fertility, and has been described as being both seductive and dangerous.

In addition to the sexualized version of herself, the Deer Woman is also known as a spirit of transformation, a warning of danger, or a guide to help humans find their way back to a path of righteousness.

She is a symbol of the dark feminine in her more wrathful stories. A woman harmed by a man and ready to get revenge on any man who happens upon her. I know many women who can relate to this archetype, and her powerful energy is worthy of reverence and respect.

Her stories as a fertility goddess are less popular in the modern day, but these stories can’t be divorced from her role as protectress of women and children. She is a mother figure for this reason, capable of both great violence and great tenderness.